Disclaimer: As always I own nothing but the original characters and the situations all characters end up in. Hope you like this little story of mine!


Step One

Sitting at his seat Alexei drummed his fingers under the table while doing his best to keep his face blank as he listened to the voices that were talking over him. Technically they were speaking toward him, but since apparently his opinion didn't matter in the least Alexei figured his prior description fit better in this case. Not to mention the fact that the other people at the table weren't even waiting for him to reply either, taking his silence to mean that of course he agreed with him or her a hundred percent and would do exactly what they wanted him to do even though they had to realize somewhere in their stupid, inbred brains, that it was a very rare thing for anyone to get or convince him to do something he didn't want to do.

In fact, it was so rare you'd think the academic sorts would note them down somewhere as a shocking phenomenon to be marveled over.

How long before they realized he hadn't spoke for at least half an hour, Alexei silently mused, thinking that perhaps he should amuse himself by having a little bet with himself.

But no…he was far too angry to even think about trying to turn this into some kind of joke.

Like them thinking he would ever get married, much less let them pick a woman out for him was a joke.

He'd made his sexuality very clear years before, not the sort to fear the repercussions that could result in someone of his bloodline and social status coming out as homosexual. He hadn't given a flying fuck. Never had and never would. Taking the coward's way out was for the weak and non-magical. Anyone who didn't like who he was, and there were hundreds who didn't, could go choke on the brooms he'd shove down their throats if they messed with him.

Yes, he was very much aware that he was pretty much the only eligible Dolohov male at this point who was not only sane but remotely appealing to the opposite gender, but so what? That wasn't his fault. If they wanted the family name to continue then they should just marry his sister off to some poor smuck who was too afraid of her to object to the idea of their children bearing her last name instead of his.

Given that his sister was at least half as nasty as he was, Alexei didn't see that being a problem for her.

Looking across the table at her Alexei wasn't overly surprised to see her watching him with a mixture of surprise and anticipation. She wasn't used to him being able to rein in his temper this well and was getting annoyed with being made to wait to see him implode.

She was still bitter that she had missed the family dinner where he'd stunned three of their relatives into a stupor for a few weeks because they'd dared to try and bribe his Quidditch coach into throwing him off the team so that he would no longer embarrass them with his chosen profession.

Reliving that family gathering in his mind was oddly soothing, Alexei decided, doing precisely that for several minutes before his remembering was interrupted by the fact that Gabrielle Goyle's name had just been thrown into the ring as a possible marriage candidate.


Not that he had anything against her personally, she was fairly tolerable for a girl, but she was TALLER than he was. She was, in fact, the TALLEST girl of his acquaintance.

And he HATED being reminded of the fact that he was below average height for a male.

Across the table Alexei's sister wiggled with glee. Ohhhh but it was on now.

Pushing back his chair Alexei deliberately made it screech across the hardwood flooring, drawing everyone's attention to him.

"That is quite enough." He bit off, rising to his feet. He might be short, but his presence was big enough that people always forgot his lack of height at such times. "How many times do I have to tell you dolts that you will NEVER have any say in my life choices again? I would have thought, after the incidents following MY decision to become a professional Quidditch player, that even the stupidest of you lot would have finally gotten it through your thick skulls that people who try to run my life for me tend to end up wishing they'd NEVER met me. The fact that we're related through blood only goes so far, especially since you all make it so perfectly clear to me every time you open your mouths that your removal from this plane of existence would only benefit me in the long run."


Turning his head in his mother's direction Alexei wasn't about to be cowed just because she'd given birth to him. He hadn't asked to be born after all and she could only play the mom card so many times in a day before it expired.

"I've reached my limit, I won't stand for you all continuing to interfere in my life." His eyes scanned the room, deliberately looking each of them in the eye in turn before continuing. "And I swear on my honor that if so much as one of you opens your mouth and tries to tell me how to live my life again…I will make you regret it, I swear it."

"Alexei! You will apologize to everyone this instant!"

Slowly moving his head, the action oddly reminiscent of a serpent scenting the air for prey, Alexei met his father's gaze, the look in his eyes so dark and predatory that the older man looked away first, unable to hold his son's gaze.

"I believe that counts as you telling me what to do, Father."

Everyone sucking in their breath, rooted in their seats as they waited to see what Alexei would do with icy cold fear, all knowing just how dangerous the young man was when he was provoked.

But Alexei didn't retrieve his wand, simply standing where he was for several heartbeats before moving around his chair, heading for the doorway that would lead out of the dining room.

"Where are you going?" His sister blurted out, not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved.

"To do something that will make him very, VERY sorry that he pushed me."

And on that note Alexei left the room and the family estate all together, checking his pocket watch to gauge the time and then dissipating as he sent himself to his first stop of the evening.

He had someone to find, and he was pretty sure he knew where to look.


Sitting in his usual booth Hugo watched the people that occupied the other chairs and benches with interest, content to observe them while he finished up his dessert. He came to the Leaky Cauldron every Friday night unless he had other plans, his love for Hannah's meat loaf such that he never got tired of eating it. He was a creature of habit when it came to food, but to his way of thinking that wasn't a bad thing. It just meant that he knew what he liked. Not that he had a problem trying new foods, he'd try most anything once, but if given the choice he'd take the meat loaf over some fancy concoction that costed ten times more than the meat loaf and took up only a quarter of the bloody plate.

Money didn't grow on trees after all, though he could probably create a philosopher's stone if he really wanted to go to all that trouble.

Unfortunately his parents had had a bad experience involving one of those stone though, and he'd promised them he'd never make one even just to see if he could or not.

Smiling at the thought Hugo returned his now empty spoon to the dish, feeling relatively full and content. He was a bottomless pit when it came to food, so he always had room for more.

It was a Weasley thing.

Sticking his hand in his pocket the curly haired Gryffindor pulled out a handful of coins, counting out the correct amount as well as a generous tip since he could afford to do so.

That done Hugo was about to rise from his seat when he sensed the feel of the room change, a quieting of voices that suggested something big had happened to so quickly render so many people silent. Immediately turning his attention to finding the cause, well aware that his wand was within easy reach, Hugo's eyes finally landed on the man who was cutting through the crowded room like a knife through butter.

Alexei Dolohov.

Well that explained it, Hugo thought as he relaxed his posture, a small grin on his face. Alexei tended to have that effect on people, especially when he was in a bad mood, which the Slytherin obviously was.

Unlike most everyone else he'd never been afraid of the testy, very volatile Dolohov. That lack of fear had some saying that that made him crazy due to the fact that Alexei was the only person he'd ever met in his entire life who could seriously bully him. Many had tried and failed, but Alexei stood alone, though not exactly successful since the point of bullying was to make the other person feel bad about his or herself, or physically harm them. No matter how bad things had gotten while they were in school together the other man had never physically attacked him to harm, and he'd never really taken the Slytherin's insults and criticisms to heart because he liked who he was and saw himself clearly.

And come to think of it…wasn't the man headed straight for him?

Uh oh…that could be bad.

Trying not to be too obvious about it Hugo slid his gaze off to the other side of the room to where his older cousin was sitting with his girlfriend eating dinner. He hadn't gone over to say hi earlier since it was obvious that they were on a date and he knew they'd invite him to join them, but if Alexei started on him Fred and Gabrielle would definitely notice and come over to protect him.

And while Alexei had never gotten physical violent with him Hugo was pretty sure the man wouldn't hesitate to punch Fred out if given the opportunity. Fred could be a lot more annoying than him without even trying.

For the moment his cousin seemed completely absorbed in whatever he was talking to Gabrielle about though, so maybe he wouldn't notice unless Alexei raised his voice. Though that would be hard to prevent, especially if the Slytherin was already mad, but maybe he'd be lucky.

Opting to remain seated, Alexei hated being towered over, Hugo subtly pushed the table part closer to the other side in case he needed to get up quickly. He was caging himself in so to speak, but he was pretty sure-


Thought process dying a quick death Hugo met the man's gaze, nodding his head in acknowledgement. "Dolohov."

Eyes quickly following the motion as Alexei set a hand on top of his booth, Hugo's gaze returned to meet the other man's just in time to register the fact that the Slytherin had moved in close before Alexei's lips pressed up against his own in a decidedly possessive and fierce kiss.

Completely stunned by the action Hugo's eyes went huge behind his glasses, mouth dropping open in shock as he processed both the feel of the man's lips on his and the fingers that had speared into his curls to control his head. And then it registered in his mind that Alexei was taking advantage of his open mouth by putting his tongue in his mouth…and okay…what the hell?

Oh wow.

Moaning low in his throat in reaction to whatever Alexei's tongue was currently doing in his mouth, the Gryffindor's brain was having some problems functioning at the moment, Hugo unable to stop himself from lifting his own hands up to wrap around the Slytherin's waist to draw him a little closer.

And when Alexei shifted so that his right knee pressed down between his legs Hugo's mind completely blanked so that he spread them immediately, allowing the knee to brace against the cushion while the other man used the shift in position to move in closer.

"What the hell do you think you're doing to my adorable little cousin?!"

Hugo made a sound of disappointment when Alexei was literally pulled off of him, very sorry to have the kiss end so suddenly and before he'd recovered his senses enough to add his own tongue to the mix. A real pity, that.

"I don't recall giving you permission to touch me, Weasley." Alexei informed Fred in a low voice that threatened unimaginable pain if the other man didn't butt the hell out of his business. "This is between Hugo and I."

Wow, the man had actually said his first name…something was definitely up.

"Fred." A world of warning in her voice Gabrielle kept a firm grip on her idiot's arm. "Don't start anything with him, you'll lose. And besides, if anyone has the right to beat the crap out of Dolohov for manhandling Hugo it's Hugo, who seems more disappointed that you stopped the snogging than he is upset."

"I wouldn't lose!"

"You'd lose." Gabrielle, Hugo and Alexei informed him in perfect synchronization.

"HEY! YOU GUYS SUCK!" And then realizing what he'd just said Fred immediately turned his puppy dog eyes on full as he looked into his girlfriend's less than amused face. "I didn't mean you of course. Promise. I'm just trying to protect Hugo from Dolohov! Do you know what Rosie would do to me if I didn't?"

Gabrielle gave him a look that said he definitely wasn't off the hook, which was the norm in their often turbulent relationship.

"But I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, Fred."

"No you're not." Gabrielle, Fred and Alexei informed him.

Accepting that response, it's what he always got when he made such statements, Hugo just shrugged and then shifting over rose to stand to his full height, the tallest of the four of them which was saying something as both Fred and Gabrielle were tall even for their respective genders.

Alexei was the adorably short exception, as always.

Well aware of this fact Alexei scowled at being made to feel small, reaching out and latching onto Hugo's wrist since he didn't want the clueless Gryffindor getting away from him. "I have business with him, so beat it, Weasley. Or better yet, Gabrielle, would you get this idiot out of my sight unless you want me to remove him from both our lives."

"Don't you talk to her like you're friends."

Smirking in a deliberate ploy to upset the older man, Alexei pleasantly informed him that if the idiot wanted to get upset about something he should freak out over the fact that apparently his parents were conspiring with Gabrielle's parents to try and play matchmaker.

Worked like a charm, Alexei thought as he watched Fred immediately freak out, rounding on Gabrielle to find out if this was true and if she'd known about it.

Leaving the two to argue Alexei ordered Hugo to come with him, tugging on the wrist he still had as he led the way towards the pub's door so that they could get out of there before the older Weasley realized that the younger one was missing.

And it was only for the sake of convenience that Alexei made no objection when Hugo unexpectedly yanked his wrist out of his grasp, only to take his hand so that they were still joined but in a far more friendly way.


Well aware of the huge uproar they'd left behind Alexei wasn't quite sure what to make of the fact that the other man was following him without the slightest hesitation. Like a lamb wandering into a wolf's den and cuddling up beside him, Alexei marveled, unable to believe that someone who was such an academic genius could be so dim when it came to his personal safety. But that was this particular Weasley for you, which was good for the moment since that would make his plans go that much smoother.

"So where are we going?"

"Your place."

"Oh." Still confused about what was going on, the Slytherin was obviously up to something, Hugo just shrugged and continued to walk beside Alexei, swinging their hands a little between them to amuse himself. "And what are we going to do when we get there? I mean you're setting the stage for something, making people think we're sexually involved would be my guess. If you don't want to tell me why that's fine, but I am a little curious."

Very curious actually, but he respected the fact that Alexei was a very private person.

Well aware of the hand swinging and the amused smile the other man was wearing Alexei couldn't help but think that it was times like this that he really had to wonder how the man had managed to live this long without dying some epically stupid death. "You are the weirdest person I know. Do you know that?"

"Yup." This wasn't the first time the man had made that observation after all.

"And you're really just going to calmly walk with me back to your place and let me inside even though you've known me since pre-school and should know better."

Hugo decided to pretend to consider the matter since he got the sense that he'd be in for another lecture about his lack of common sense if he didn't. Of course Alexei was pretty good at reading him too, so it was probably a wasted effort.

"The worst you'll do is yell at me, so that's not really a big deal, right? I mean you've been verbally abusing me since pre-school so it's not like I'm not used to it."

That he thought Alexei was incredibly adorable when he got angry and threw a tantrum went unsaid for the sake of remaining conscious and alive.